Coronary Artery Disease

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What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

The heart needs oxygen-rich blood to function. The coronary arteries are a network of blood vessels that run along the outer surface of the heart. There are two main coronary blood vessels that branch off into smaller blood vessels, which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.

Coronary artery disease develops when the coronary arteries become very narrow due to a build-up of fatty deposits called plaque on their inner walls. Plaque can clog the artery or disrupt its function, restricting blood flow to the heart. Our Heart Specialist in Fairfax understands this condition and what can be done about it.

When the heart muscle cannot get the blood it needs, you may have chest pain (angina) or even a heart attack. Coronary artery disease can also weaken the heart muscle, leading to heart failure or arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).

Heart Specialist Fairfax

Quick Facts

  • It is possible to do something about the condition.
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease. It is caused by the build-up of plaque in the inner walls of arteries that supply blood to the heart.
  • Plaque can start collecting along the walls of your blood vessels when you’re very young. By your teen years, they will have collected streaks of fat, and as you get older, the fat builds up.
  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking increase the risk of coronary artery disease.
  • CAD can be managed through appropriate lifestyle changes and treated using interventional procedures.

Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

Initially, the decreased blood flow to the heart may not cause any symptoms. Over time, you may develop the following symptoms:

Angina: characterized by pressure or tightness in the chest. It is triggered during exercise or any other physical activity. Emotional stress may also cause pain, which is usually experienced in the middle or left side of the chest. The pain may also be felt in the shoulders, back, arms, neck, or jaw. It usually subsides a few minutes after you rest.

Shortness of breath: which can occur if coronary artery disease has caused heart failure, in which case your heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of your body. As a result, fluid can build up in your lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

Heart attack: a blocked coronary artery causes a tightness in the chest and a pain in your shoulder or arm. In women, a heart attack may cause pain in the neck or jaw, along with other symptoms such as nausea and fatigue.

Causes and Risk Factors

At VeinGuard Center, we believe that early detection and prevention will decrease one’s susceptibility to heart problems and that you are looking for the best Heart Specialist Tysons Corner and Fairfax have to offer. With that said, knowing the causes and factors that increase one’s risk is important. Such are:

  • Age 
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Family history
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • An unhealthy diet rich in fat and cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Uncontrolled stress
  • Frequent use of cocaine or recreational drugs 
Heart Specialist Tysons Corner

Diagnosis

After a physical examination and an assessment of your medical history, your doctor may order the following tests to diagnose CAD:

  • Electrocardiogram, to record your heart’s electrical activity and rhythm.
  • Echocardiographic stress test, an ultrasound of your heart, to evaluate its pumping action.
  • Echocardiogram (ECG) stress test, also called a treadmill test, where you’re hooked up to heart-monitoring equipment and asked to walk on a treadmill slowly and then fast. It checks your heart’s response to exertion. Based on the results, your doctor may recommend a nuclear stress test or coronary catheterization.
  • Nuclear stress test, where a tracer is injected into your bloodstream and a gamma camera shows how well blood flows to your heart when you’re at rest and in motion.
  • Coronary catheterization, where a catheter is used to inject a dye into an artery in your arm or leg, which then runs through your blood vessels into the heart to detect blockages on an X-ray.

Treatment Approaches

Medications

Depending on your specific heart condition and other health conditions, the doctor may prescribe medications such as beta-blockers, calcium-channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, or cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Interventional Procedures

  • Balloon angioplasty and stent placement, a non-surgical procedure where a small metal mesh tube is inserted into a clogged artery to expand it. 
  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery, where the surgeon harvests blood vessels from another part of your body or uses a synthetic graft to bypass the damaged arteries. 
  • Protected percutaneous (done through the skin) coronary intervention for advanced or complex coronary artery disease, involving angioplasty and stent placement with additional support from a special device that keeps your blood pressure and blood flow at a normal rate during the procedure. 

Lifestyle Management

  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Control blood sugar
  • Lead an active lifestyle
  • Dietary changes, such as a low-sodium, low-fat diet
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Manage stress
  • Lose weight 

Contact our office for a Heart Specialist Fairfax clients have come to rely on.

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